Weather radar, pre-Doppler

WRS-57 consoleThe U.S. Weather Bureau installs the first WSR-57 weather radar in what in intended to eventually be a network of weather radars spanning the entire country. Derived from World War II radars, the WSR-57 is first installed at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, where it offers as much as two days’ advance notice of storms approaching the Florida coast in the years before weather satellites. This radar remains in service until 1992, when it is literally ripped off the NHC’s roof by the winds of Hurricane Andrew. It is later replaced by a WSR-88 NEXRAD radar, though by that time satellite imagery has become the primary means of remotely detecting major tropical weather events.

N1 Flight #3

N1Though the race to the moon has already been lost, the Soviet space program continues to refine its giant N1 rocket, conducting extensive modifications to nearly all of its systems. The third N1 to lift off almost immediately loses directional control, forcing ground controllers to signal it to self-destruct less than a mile off the ground. Its cargo is an unmanned Soyuz/Korabl combo – the Soviet answer to the Apollo command/service module and landing module – though this time there is no launch escape system, so the vehicle is destroyed along with its booster.

US Games closes its doors

Commando Raid by US GamesA latecomer to the glut of companies trying to provide software for the Atari 2600 video game system, US Games is closed down by its parent companies, Quaker Oats and Fisher-Price. Barely a year old, and with only 14 titles released, US Games is dubbed “an experiment” – but apparently not an experiment capable of surviving in the rapidly contracting video game market.

More about US Games in Phosphor Dot Fossils

The future of Mars exploration

PathfinderA tech demonstration at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory leads to a rethink of the upcoming Mars Environmental Survey mission (MESUR). A self-contained “rover” named Rocky IV convinces mission planners to include a similar rover on an upcoming Mars mission; although the rest of MESUR is eventually scrapped due to budget cuts, the one portion of it to be salvaged is the Mars Pathfinder lander, which will deliver the rover (later to be named Sojourner in a nationwide contest) to the Martian surface sometime in the late ’90s.

Episode I filming begins

LucasGeorge Lucas films the first footage for the hotly-anticipated Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace at England’s Leavesden Film Studios, a facility that Lucasfilm has rented out for the duration of the movie’s expected long production period. By this point, even details of minor cast members have been leaked to the public, possibly making the production of Episode I the beginning of the modern age of internet spoilers. The cast includes Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Nataline Portman and Jake Lloyd, with veteran cast members such as Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Ian McDiarmid reprising their roles from the original trilogy. Cameras are expected to roll through September, with a 1999 release date already set.